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50 years later: Looking back at the 1974 Super Outbreak

1974 Super Outbreak 50 years later

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It’s been 50 years since one of the worst and largest tornado outbreaks in U.S history. The Super Outbreak of April 3-4, 1974, spawned 148 twisters in a 24-hour period that unfortunately took the lives of 335 people.

From Illinois to North Carolina, over 15,000 homes, businesses, and farms would be destroyed.

A map showing the paths of the tornadoes that touched down during the Super Outbreak. (Provided Photo/NWS Indianapolis

Tornado outbreak in Indiana

Indiana would have multiple violent F4 and F5 tornadoes racing to the northeast at about 60 mph. Twenty-one different tornadoes were recorded through 46 of Indiana’s 92 counties. This outbreak is the last time Indiana had an EF-5 or F5-rated tornado (the Fujita scale would be placed with the Enhanced Fujita scale in 2007).

The original Fujita Scale, which was replaced in 2007 by the Enhanced Fujita Scale. (Provided photo/National Weather Service)

One of the most destructive tornadoes in Indiana was the F4 that struck Monticello. This tornado alone killed 19 people as it tracked through Monticello into northern Indiana. Further analysis of the 109-mile path suggests this tornado may have actually been multiple tornadoes.

Tornado Near Knightstown, Ind. (Provided Photo/Dr. Ernest Agee & Purdue University)

The DePauw tornado was the first F5 tornado produced during the super outbreak, which would produce multiple F5s in a couple of states. Six people lost their lives to this tornado, as it stayed on the ground in southern Indiana for 68 miles.

Multiple strong tornadoes would continue through the afternoon and evening in eastern Indiana.

A tornado on the ground in Parker City, Indiana. (Provided Photo/Mick Deckmen)

Significance of the event

Many lessons were learned from the 1974 Super Outbreak in the Ohio Valley. A lot of fatalities occurred because of a poor warning system. Huge advances in weather technology would occur in the years to come that would prevent a similar loss of life in future severe weather outbreaks.

As always, when severe weather strikes, be sure to stay up to date on the forecast with Storm Track 8 here.

  • During an event known as the ‘Super Tornado Outbreak’, the second largest outbreak in history, a total of 148 tornadoes touched down across the country over a 24-hour period.
  • According to the National Weather Service, 22 tornadoes touched down across the state of Indiana during a storm system that struck this day.
  • 23 tornadoes touched down in Indiana between the night of March 31 and the early morning hours of April 1.